College Football Overtime (cont.)
South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore rushed for 246 yards and three touchdowns Saturday. So how is it that the Gamecocks wound up needing an interception with a minute left to survive Navy 24-21? Steve Spurrier's team is 3-0 and unquestionably talented, yet continually does little to inspire confidence. "I'm embracing it," Spurrier said of his team's penchant for late-game drama. "This is the kind of game you lose." We do appreciate the HBC's honesty.
Nebraska's defense, playing without injured cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, had a second straight disappointing outing Saturday, allowing 420 total yards and three fourth-quarter touchdowns in a 51-38 win over Washington. An inexperienced secondary is one thing, but the Huskers' seemingly loaded defensive front has generated just five sacks in three games. "The sky isn't falling on defense," said a measured Bo Pelini. Nebraska plays Wisconsin in two weeks.
Notre Dame found out Saturday it is actually possible to keep turning the ball over and still beat a respectable foe. The Irish added three more giveaways to their national-worst 13 on the season, but a suffocating rush defense held Michigan State to just 29 yards in a 31-13 rout of the then 15th-ranked Spartans. Touted freshman defensive end Aaron Lynch, who never saw the field last week against Michigan, played a key role with five tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.
A move to September turned the usually tight Utah-BYU Holy War into a slopfest, with the Utes pouncing on seven Cougars turnovers en route to a 54-10 blowout. With quarterback Jordan Wynn still visibly affected by last year's shoulder surgery, the Utes got their running game going, as juco transfer John White rushed for 174 yards and three scores on 22 carries. White and the defense should be Utah's formula going forward.
James Franklin became the first Vanderbilt coach since 1943 to start 3-0. The Commodores are following their precocious coach's lead and playing with a certain ... swagger? "We expect to come out every week and win," said cornerback Trey Wilson, whose pick-six was one of five Vandy interceptions in a 30-7 beatdown of Ole Miss. Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop has turned the 'Dores into an aggressive, blitzing outfit that's had a pick-six in all three games.
Guess who else is a surprising 3-0? Iowa State. The Cyclones followed up their dramatic overtime win against Iowa with a road win Friday night at Connecticut. When he wasn't throwing three interceptions, "Man of" Steele Jantz connected with receiver Darius Reynolds for 128 yards on four receptions, including a go-ahead 20-yarder with 9:08 left in which Reynolds leapfrogged two defenders on his way to the end zone. Up next following a bye week: Texas, which ISU beat last year.
Following a three-hour lightning delay, Oklahoma State and Tulsa kicked off at 12:15 a.m. local time Sunday morning. The No. 8 Cowboys seemed unaffected, winning 59-33, but coach Mike Gundy was not thrilled. "Whether young people stay up late at night or not, they don't exert themselves at 2 and 3 in the morning," he said. "I had concerns about injuries on both teams." And indeed, Tulsa lost prized quarterback G.J. Kinne to a potentially serious knee injury.
It was good to see Minnesota coach Jerry Kill back on the sideline a week after suffering a seizure late in a loss to New Mexico State. He and his team both rebounded, with the Gophers topping Miami (Ohio), 29-23.
A week after nearly knocking off San Diego State, Army pulled out a 21-14 win over Northwestern, racking up 381 rushing yards with its option attack.
Ridiculous stat line I: Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege completed 40-of-44 passes -- an FBS-record 90.9 percent for 40-plus attempts -- for 401 yards and five touchdowns against New Mexico.
Ridiculous stat line II: Missouri running back Henry Josey rushed 14 times for 263 yards and three touchdowns against Western Illinois -- all in the first half.
I can't imagine a crueler way to lose than what happened to Boston College, which saw Nate Freese's 23-yard chip shot with 43 seconds left bounce off the left upright, sealing a 20-19 Duke victory.
Never mind, I can. With three seconds remaining, Wyoming blocked Bowling Green's game-tying extra point attempt to win 28-27.
If you missed the news that Oregon received its NCAA Letter of Inquiry (apparently by phone) in the Willie Lyles saga ... well, that's exactly what the school intended. As the Oregonian's Rachel Bachman noted, Oregon strategically planted the release "after the airing of ... GameDay, and well into a day crowded with games," even though it got the call several days earlier.
The LOI is a formality in an NCAA investigation, though it almost certainly guarantees that the more serious Notice of Allegations is forthcoming. It remains to be seen what those allegations will be regarding the infamous $25,000 payment to purported talent scout/mentor Lyles. But amid the ongoing investigation, school president Richard Lariviere offered a notably strong endorsement of Chip Kelly.
"Chip's job is quite safe," Lariviere said Saturday. "We've cooperated with the NCAA very extensively and looked at this really, really carefully internally, and I have very high confidence in this group of people. Very high confidence."
I'm going to the same well twice in two weeks because, quite frankly, it's that good of a story.
On Saturday, 3-0 Florida International followed up last week's historic win over Louisville (its first over a BCS-conference team) with a 17-10 upset of in-state foe UCF, a team that nearly cracked the Top 25 a week earlier. This despite the fact that star receiver T.Y. Hilton, whom I extolled in this same space last week, missed most of the game after suffering an apparent hamstring injury. The Panthers did it with defense instead, sacking Knights star Jeff Godfrey six times -- one of which forced a fumble that Isame Faciane returned 51 yards for a touchdown.
So a Sun Belt team beat a Conference USA team; who cares, right? Not if you know the context. FIU's program did not exist prior to 2002. When coach Mario Cristobal took over in '07, it was unquestionably 119th out of 119 FBS teams, coming off an 0-12 season and an ugly bench-clearing brawl against Miami.
We'll let Cristobal take it from there.
"It started last year with a conference championship and then it went with a bowl bid and then a bowl win against a great MAC team [Toledo]. Then we started the season against North Texas and proving it was no fluke. Then going up to a BCS school last week and winning on their turf and then hosting Central Florida, which I say is a Top 25 team. When you have a victory like this, the eyes continue to open and open wide.
"That [north side of FIU's] stadium is going to be closed in as soon as this season is over. The facilities are going to expand even more. Our school is going to explode to 62,000 students. If you are building a football program and you ask for a list of ingredients, the list has already been taken care of here."
The man is a dreamer. But so far, his dream is coming true.
Mini-previews for three of this week's big games:
LSU at West Virginia, Saturday (8 p.m. ET): It is simply not possible to get two more eccentric personalities in the same stadium at the same time than Dana Holgorsen and Les Miles. And thanks to West Virginia's in-stadium beer sales, you couldn't conjure up a more liquored-up atmosphere come kickoff.
Arkansas at Alabama, Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET): Bobby Petrino's high-powered offense will provide the first real test for Nick Saban's defense, but an equally intriguing storyline will be whether Arkansas' improving defense can slow down Tide star Trent Richardson, who is coming off a 167-yard day against North Texas.
Oklahoma State at Texas A&M, Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET): As of today it's a crucial Big 12 showdown. By game time it could be a future SEC-Pac-12 intersectional matchup. Whatever the case, in 2011, it's a key game in determining who will be Oklahoma's main challenger the rest of the way.